By Benny Smith
Western Carolina University continues to gain momentum in its enrollment this fall by welcoming the third largest class in its history.
According to university census numbers, WCU reported an 8.8% increase in the number of freshmen this fall. This year, WCU has 2,082 freshmen compared to last fall’s class of 1,913. The enrollment figures for WCU are in stark and positive contrast to the enrollment challenges experienced by other regional universities across the nation.
“WCU and its faculty, staff and students are the embodiment of the mission and vision of a regional university,” said WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown. “The commitment of hardworking staff and faculty at our university is why students choose Western as their destination campus.”
WCU also made significant gains in retention of its students from last year, a rate which had been impacted during the pandemic. The freshman retention rate this fall increased to 75.5 %, a gain of over 4% as compared to last fall. The retention rate increase is the largest since the COVID-19 pandemic. The university also had a small increase in the number of new undergraduate transfer students enrolled this fall with 1,056 students, compared to 1,044 transfers last fall.
In addition to the strong numbers of new students, WCU also continues to see a growing interest from students outside of North Carolina. This fall, the number of students from out-of-state grew from 1,731 to 1,909, a 10.28% increase. This interest reflects the university’s reputation for high quality and affordability, aided by the NC Promise program which provides reduced tuition benefits not only for NC residents but for out-of-state students as well.
Sept. 1 was the university’s Census Day for classes which records the number of students officially enrolled. On Tuesday, Sept. 5, the WCU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness released enrollment numbers. All data is preliminary and not considered final until any errors have been corrected and files have been submitted to the University of North Carolina System offices.
Despite the strong freshman numbers and the uptick in transfers, the university’s overall enrollment remained essentially flat due to the recent graduation of two of its largest classes and the smaller freshman enrollment experienced during the pandemic. The overall enrollment for this fall is 11,628 students, compared to last fall’s enrollment of 11,635.
Forbes recently ranked WCU’s distance learning programs among the best in North Carolina, making the top 10 on its list of best online colleges in the Old North State. WCU’s College of Business was named as at top campus for the best MBA program from Princeton Review.